Homer Man Delivers Teepees to Standing Rock
A Homer man recently delivered a donation of teepees to a camp for activists near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline has been going on since April. Lucas Wilcox delivered some of the teepees to the main camp, Oceti Sakowin.
Wilcox raised funds to buy and then drive seven large teepees to Standing Rock. About an hour and half south of Bismarck, the camp is a sea of tents, yurts, and a striking number of teepees.
“From a distance, you just see an amazing encampment of teepees that could have been the same kind of village from a thousand years ago. It is wonderful to see this ancient technology being set up and implemented on the Great Plains again,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox is white. He’s been involved with the Occupy movement and Rainbow Gatherings and he says he felt drawn to stand as an ally with the Native people at Standing Rock because of shared values. But he says it is important for white people who come to the camp to respect Lakota culture.
“They absolutely invite everybody and anybody who wants to come and can come for the cause of stopping the pipeline with the caveat that everyone needs to be as respectful as possible of the Native culture and customs and of the individuals that have been here their entire lives,” said Wilcox.
After a short visit to the camp in October, Wilcox saw the need for shelter as winter approached and in early November, returned to his hometown of Homer where he held a fundraiser. He raised more than $4,000 but spent $6,000 on the teepees and transportation.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has occupied Army Corps of Engineers land along the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline project since April, claiming they are the rightful owners under an 1851 treaty.
The company, Energy Transfer Partners, wants to drill under the Missouri River to complete a pipeline that would ship crude oil across four states. The tribe says the possibility of a pipeline accident could threaten their water supply and construction would destroy sacred sites.
On Sunday, Nov. 20 there was a violent clash on a bridge just outside the camp, when Wilcox arrived.
“I got back here this last time with the seven teepees on Sunday night which was the night of that huge demonstration on the bridge against the police where they were spraying people with water cannons for several hours,” said Wilcox.
Law enforcement officials have said they used the water cannons and other force because the demonstration turned into a riot. But demonstrators deny that allegation.
In the camp itself, people like Layla Farahbakhsh keep daily life moving with cooking and projects. She is living at two-spirit camp, a sub-camp inside Oceti Sakowin, that’s using four of the seven teepees Wilcox brought.
“I am a queer, Cuban-Iranian, first-generation woman. I have ties to Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas and then Massachusetts and the East Coast,” said Farahbakhsh.
This is her second trip to the camp and she says she plans to stay thorough spring.
“The most important thing for me and the reason why I am here is to stand in solidarity with Indigenous folks who have been experiencing environmental racism for as long as there have been colonizers,” said Farahbakhsh.
Farahbakhsh says the teepees have been a blessing:
“One of them we are using as a communal space to socialize and to hold meetings and then the other one we are using to help hold all of our donations that keep pouring in,” said Farahbakhsh.
She guides me through the entrance of one of the larger teepees.
“So this one we are having meetings in it and then also folks are staying in it if it is cold,” said Farahbakhsh.
And a second large teepee right next to it.
“So this one we have all of our blankets and donations and we got some starter logs, batteries, nice lamps, a lot of sleeping bags. It’s really warm in here. Yeah they’re really toasty,” said Farahbakhsh.
The Army Corps of Engineers has issued an eviction notice for the camp through a to letter to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. They want demonstrators to move the main camp south of the Cannonball River by Dec. 5. Leaders say the camp will not move. A spokesperson for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department told the Bismarck Tribune they will warn people carrying goods to camp that they could be subject to an infraction with a maximum penalty of $1,000.
At least two-thousand veterans from across the country are expected to join the camp Dec. 4, the day before the eviction deadline.